Are you looking for an honest Donner DDP-80 review? Then, you landed in the right place. I’ve studied this digital piano inside out to determine whether it’s anywhere near the hype, and I’ve discovered quite a few things that surprised me in a positive, but also in a less positive way.
The Donner DDP-80 is a relatively new appearance on the market, in a competitive price range and is supposed to be the digital version of an acoustic piano. Or, at least that’s what the manufacturer is suggesting. In this review I attempt to unveil the objective truth about this new and already quite popular digital piano. Let’s start by taking a quick look at the specs below before putting this digital piano under the magnifying glass.
If you click the button above you will be redirected to Amazon.com. In case you then decide to buy anything, Amazon.com will pay me a commission. This doesn’t affect the honesty of this review in any way though.
Donner DDP-80 Specifications
|Size||49.9in x 13.9in x 29.3in (126.8cm x 35.5cm x 74.5cm)|
|Power||External Power Adapter, DC-12V/3.0A|
|Sound Library||1 Standard Piano Tone|
|Keyboard Material||ABS Plastic|
Donner has been around for nearly a decade. It’s been producing competitively priced digital pianos and other musical instruments, establishing itself as a less pricey alternative for brands such as Yamaha, Kawai or Casio. The Chinese manufacturer has 3 more brands besides Donner, under which it produces various musical instruments: Eastar, Moukey and Reditmo.
The main differentiating factor that makes the Donner DDP-80 stand out between other digital pianos is the lack of any visible control panel, buttons, speakers, knobs, sliders. An additional unique characteristic is the fact that it only has one preset piano sound. The manufacturers designed it to be more of an acoustic piano in a small, and affordable package, than an electronic keyboard. Of course it’s overall looks, given by the lack of buttons and the finish of the material, lend it an interesting, attractive appearance that fits well with most interior decoration styles. I, for one, like the retro looks of this particular model.
The appearance of the Donner DDP-80 is the most obvious characteristic, the one that stands out the most. And some might argue, the most unusual one, that is for a digital piano. The minimalist, 50’s and 60’s style cabinet design has no comparison across the entire market of digital pianos. It’s made to look like wood, and I say “look” because it’s actually not wood.
I’d say it’s a rather misleading marketing campaign on the part of Donner, because in their description of the product on their website, they use “wood” and “wooden texture” repeatedly, associating it with suggestive images that have the intention to create the perception that it’s made of actual hardwood. In reality it’s not.
It is a wood product, at least part of it. It’s made of MDF boards that are coated with a layer of wood finish vinyl. MDF stands for medium density fiber, and it’s the same material other digital pianos’ cabinets are made of. It’s wood material compressed at high heat and pressure resulting in a dense and powerful material. I think it’s a good choice as a material for the cabinet, so that’s not my point. I just think that the people over at Donner, could be less misleading in their marketing efforts and say the complete truth as it is. By all means, the structure is very sturdy, and aesthetic.
The legs are also appearing to be wood, but are probably actually metal. It’s easy to make a pretty accurate guess if you slightly hit it with a sturdier object, it definitely sounds like a metal tube. And again a great choice, most likely meant to last longer than wooden legs. They are also coated with the same wood looking finish like the body of the piano. Donner says the finish feels like wood. While I’m not sure if that is 100% accurate, I’d say that it feels realistic enough, and would look great with other wooden furniture in a home setting.
And speaking of home setting, the compact size of this digital piano is also a factor worth mentioning and taking into account. An aesthetically pleasing piece in a compact size would make a great addition and fit in most medium and small size rooms. The compact design of the cabinet around the keyboard and the long thin legs, make it an airy piece of furniture that wouldn’t clutter even a more crowded room.
In the box you’ll find the four legs, a MIDI pedal set and a sheet music stand, besides the keyboard. Installing the digital piano and getting it ready to be played takes very little time. You can comfortably use the included piece of cardboard to lay the keyboard on while installing the legs. This way you avoid scratching it right from the start.
Aside from looks, the sound of this digital piano differentiates it from the rest, in that it only has one piano tone, an acoustic type of piano. The sound is first sampled from an acoustic piano and then transferred onto a chip which is installed somewhere above the keys. From there sound is transmitted through the speakers whenever you play the keys. That’s for the technical part, but does it sound anything close to the real thing? I’d say not quite, although it’s surprisingly realistic, considering its price range. I must say I like how it sounds, very smooth and even, from the lows to the highs. It’s definitely better than I expected it to be. But, it’s not really at the level that the manufacturer presents it on their website. And by this I mean that Donner is trying to exaggerate certain traits suggesting that the DDP-80 is more than it truly is, when they have no need to do that, because the piano, at this price, is a good option as it is.
What I mean by this is that they say on their website, when describing the sound of the DDP-80, that it has a, and I quote “very perfect piano original tone” and that it has “perfect sound balance, making you feel that you are playing in a grand concert hall”. I don’t completely agree with their statements.
This is, again, like their suggestion that the piano is made out of wood, a pointless misleading marketing effort. And like with the wood finish, the sound is surprisingly good as is for this price range. They didn’t have to say that the sound makes you believe that it’s coming from an acoustic piano in a concert hall, because that’s something that digital pianos rarely do, more so a beginner level digital piano.
The sound of an acoustic piano is made up of a number of elements that interfere, creating that rich, characteristic sound. Apart from the sound itself being created by hitting a chord, the chords next to the one that was played on the acoustic piano also vibrate slightly. On top of this, there’s the cabinet of the acoustic piano that vibrates, and is acting like a loudspeaker. The hall where the acoustic piano is placed, also has an effect on the sound. So, there are many elements that can’t be recreated just like that on a beginner level digital piano.
Definitely, the sound of the Donner DDP-80 is, as I said it before, surprisingly good for this range. I wouldn’t have expected such a realism level at this category. I think that if you practice piano and are not very much interested in other sounds, it’s definitely a nice sound quality level for the price. Now, you’re not going to believe you’re in a concert hall if you close your eyes, but it’s better than expected, and fit to serve as a home practice instrument for quite a while.
But, I am also unpleasantly surprised by another fact, which I did definitely not expect: the lack of reverb. It’s a common trait in many of the digital piano available on the market these days to have some sort of reverb technology installed on them. On many models you can turn it on or off, but on the DDP-80 you don’t have it at all.
Reverb would have given the sound a kind of depth. It’s the digital correspondent to the indirect vibrations of other strings, which make the sound of a piano seem more real. It’s quite a pity they didn’t fit this piano with the technology, considering the good quality sound it has. Without this feature, there’s no basis for them to claim that the sound is like that of a real piano played in a concert hall.
Let’s progress to talking about the included pedal unit. The fact that the package contains a 3 pedal unit for a beginner type digital piano is a big advantage. They had to include this to convey the maximum authenticity of piano playing experience. I didn’t expect much of it, but I have to say that I like it pretty much. It sits directly on the floor and connects with the piano through an input. It also matches the piano in color, although it doesn’t have that simulated wood grain.
The pedal unit contains the three traditional pedals that you would find on an acoustic piano. The pedals are: soft, sostenuto and sustain or also known as damper.
The soft pedal has the function of moving the hammers closer to the strings, so that the hammers can’t strike the strings as hard and produce a sound as loud. Basically you’d use it whenever you have to play a note softly. You can also use it when accompanying a singer and you don’t want the piano sound to be as loud.
On acoustic pianos the middle pedal is known as the “sostenuto”. This pedal’s function is to hold notes, similar to the sustain pedal. The difference is that it only holds notes that are pressed down, the other notes being free to be played with or without the use of pedals.
The Donner DDP-80 comes with built-in speakers. In the specifications part of the manual, they say that the piano has two speakers, each of 20W output power. At closer inspection you can see that on the speakers themselves you can find an inscription which saying they are 10W. But, putting aside the specifications, whichever of the two is right doesn’t ultimately matter so much, in my opinion. Fact is that they do well what they are supposed to do, that is they have the power and clarity to fill a room, in a house of smaller building quite nicely.
Everything was sounding great until I turned the volume down. And that’s when the weaknesses started to show. The speaker system was reproducing a very nice, ample sound when turned up. It was capable of rendering clarity, dynamic range and fill the room easily. But if you actually didn’t want the entire family to stop and listen to you play, and you just want to practice at lower volume, you lose on expressiveness. This is not an uncommon trait on lower priced digital pianos.
If you use headphones the sound will vary according to the headphones you use. The sound might seem brighter than you would usually expect them to be.
Overall, the speaker system is pretty good, and the sound comes out pleasantly from the cabinet. It’s not the best I’ve heard but it’s good enough, covering the needs of a beginner pianist.
Besides sound, the other very important part of a digital piano is its keyboard. Depending on how well it functions and feels, it can make or break a digital piano. Donner claim in their commercial that this digital piano has, what they call, a real piano touch. This implies that the keyboard functions in a similar manner as that of a real acoustic piano. This is a point where we have to pay a little attention.
There are two types of acoustic pianos that fit into this category, grand pianos and upright pianos. The keys of the Donner DDP-80, don’t have too much in common with those of a grand piano. They have a certain degree of similarity with those of an upright piano, in that they behave similarly but they can’t possibly feel exactly the same due to the materials they’re made of. An upright piano has wood key action whereas the DDP-80, like many other models in this price range, has a plastic key action. So, they weren’t completely wrong, it’s just a case of over-selling. This doesn’t make it bad, I just felt the need be more specific about the details.
The main characteristics that you have to take into account when looking at a digital piano’s key action are: the smoothness of the movement, if they are not too noisy while moving up or down, and if they feel like the right weight. If these characteristics align, you’re looking at a good key action, whatever the material they’re made of.
The keys of the DDP-80 looks good in all aspects, and also have the correct visible length of about 6 inches. The thing is that the keys on a piano extend further after the visible point where they meet the cabinet. On the DDP-80, the complete length of the withe keys is only 7 inches. This tends to vary up until 14 inches with more expensive models. As you might already know, the feel of the keys inevitably varies with their size and weight. the feel tends to be even closer to acoustic models with the longer keys.
Besides all the technical parts, what really matters at a key action is how it feels when you press the keys down, and how they come back up. The DDP-80, has what some people would qualify as a heavier key action on the white keys. When you press the keys down, especially when you press them down lightly, you can feel that there’s more resistance. They also come back up slightly more forcefully. Overall this makes the white keys a bit heavy. Some people prefer they touch of the keys on a digital piano rather heavier, for others it might be too much. This is why I can’t necessarily say that it’s good or bad, I can only observe the facts at hand.
This slightly heavy feel on the white keys tends to be even heavier on the black ones. That’s generally not good. What I try to say with this is that if you’d press down a white and black key at the same time, you’d feel that there’s noticeably more force needed to press the black key. And not only that, it also comes back up more powerful than the white keys, which we already saw, tend to be heavier than normal. So overall, I’d describe the key action heavier than normal.
The real problem with heavier key actions, in the long run, is the extra effort on your hands. Putting the imbalance between the white and black keys aside, an overall heavier key action will have a significant impact, because piano is something you need to dedicate a lot of time to if you want to get any good at it. So, when looking at it this way, a lighter key action will make a difference over many many hours of playing the piano. And the keys tend to get slightly heavier towards the low end, which is completely normal, in this case they are felt as being even heavier. Maybe it’s just me, as I’ve played on many digital pianos and can feel slighter differences. Maybe you’ll get used to it and don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and some people might also say that building up finger strength, especially in the beginning is a good thing. Yes, it’s not a bad thing, but it will limit the time you can spend practicing, and it may incur a fatigue of the hand and wrist.
There’s also an aspect concerning the heaviness of the keys, especially the black ones which are heavier. If you press down the key towards the tip, it has a certain weight to it, but if you press it slightly upward, towards the end it’s attached to the keyboard, it gets uncomfortable. And during some songs, the way the hands are moving on the keyboard brings your finger in a position on the black keys that is uncomfortable in the long run.
Overall the key action is good, and meets certain standards. If you don’t mind a heavier key action, then you will be content with the DDP-80. I for one would take a comparative look towards other models in this price range too before reaching a buying decision. That’s the case if the primary reason for buying the Donner DDP-80 is not it’s looks.
In matters of connectivity, the Donner DDP-80 stands pretty well, considering the type of digital piano, and its price range. It offers USB connectivity capabilities, so that you can connect your piano to your computer or tablet. This gives you the liberty to record your performance or enhance the piano playing experience by using technology offered by your smart devices.
Besides the USB connection, the DDP-80 also has a quarter inch headphone jack that you can use if you’re not ready for others to hear you play. There’s also a single sustain pedal input and an audio output, that you can use to hook up an external amplification system if you fin the internal speakers not to be cut out for your needs. Next to the different ports there’s the power button and a master volume knob.
The DDP-80 has everything you’d expect from a digital piano in this price range, in matters of connectivity. I like the fact that they placed the connectivity panel and the power button and volume knob on the back side. This way the clean design is conserved very well and there’s nothing disturbing the eye. I know it’s a matter of taste, but I personally like the design of this particular digital piano a lot, and I’m happy they paid attention to details.
As a conclusion on the Donner DDP-80 review, I’d say that it’s a desirable digital piano with an attractive appearance, a bit over weighted keys, and a good good piano sound, although I’ve heard and played better ones. Its 3 pedal unit is definitely a plus, despite not being able to do half pedaling. It also has a pretty nice built in speaker system that can easily fill most rooms, although it’s not the best when you want to play at lower volume.
One of the aspects that I liked most about this piano, and that stands out, is furniture style wooden look. Although it’s not real wood, it imitates wood pretty well, even having a nice grain. The cylindrical legs and music rest match the piano very well, as much in style as in finish. There’s no room out there that this piano wouldn’t raise the level of, in my humble opinion. It has a retro look, somewhat 60’s furniture style, which, apart from the fact that its very stylish these days, goes well with more classical as well as more modern home decoration’styles. The music rest is not adjustable, so you’ll have to get used to its position. You can also remove it easily, in case you don’t use it, or if you want to move the piano.